Reviews

Monday, October 08, 2007

King of California

Director: Mike Cahill
Writer: Mike Cahill
Producers: Alexander Payne, Avi Lerner, Michael London, Randall Emmett, George Furla, John Thompson
Starring: Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 93 min
read my spoiler disclaimer



reviewed by Andrew James
     Being a big fan of Michael Douglas, it was a no brainer to check out his newest quirky role helmed by first time director Mike Cahill. At the very least it should be something new and different and judging from the trailers, probably Douglas' best work since Wonder Boys Well, as fun and quirky and as full of potential the film is, it relies a little too heavily on the journey and not enough on the experience.

      Michael Douglas plays Charlie; an aging man just released from an institution to the care of his 16 year old daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood). We quickly find that Miranda has been miraculously taking care of herself for the past two years; paying the mortgage, bills, duping foster care and schools into believeing she's with a legal guardian. When Charlie walks back into her life, everything is turned upside down with his impossible quirks and insane ideas; one of which is to seek a buried treasure that he learned about while reading a 300 year-old journal in the intstitution.

      After disagreements and arguments, Charlie finally (sort of) convinces Miranda that hunting this treasure would be a worth-while use of time and energy. The film then continues on in a series of clue hunts and "follow the map to X" moments.

      The movie works best when we're working with the relationship between Miranda and Charlie. Their arguments and compromises while living together really breathe with life and heart. Even the flashbacks to years past when Miranda was just a child is worth the time explored. But each of these moments of character developments are severed quickly in lieu of escapades and scenarios that although slightly amusing, aren't really as funny as the film intends. Hence, we're sort of left with a hollow series of events instead of strong character depth and development.

      Having said that, King of California does pick up the pace as it moves along. The treasure hunt itself does start to become a little more fun once we accept that this what the movie intends to be. Each piece of the puzzle is fun and interesting only because of what Douglas brings to the table.

      Although most of the best lines are in the trailer, Michael Douglas really brings what he can to the role and as always delivers pretty well. With big eyes, a scruffy beard and mannerisms reminiscent of Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys, he really is a joy to watch at all times. Though admittedly his literally crazy actions can get a bit frustrating. Several of the insane one-liners will definitely derive a chuckle from the audience.

      Produced by Alexander Payne, we do get a real sense of the same fun and genius of films such as Sideways. In which the comraderie of two companions, who are completely unlike each other, speed off on a hair-brained expedition of their own undertaking. But where Sideways succeeded so well, King of California does not; for not focussing enough on the emotions of the characters and instead on the actions that lead to those emotions.

      However, the movie does do its job in relating to us what is in each character's head. We can feel the growing frustration of Miranda as things around her slowly close in. From her job to her crazy father to the urban sprawl encroaching upon her neighborhood. We can also feel Charlie's excitement and enthusisasm for his goal as well. The problem is that while we get a gist for the two characters themselves, we don't get that same feeling (or enough) of their dynamic as a team.

      Not completely without merit, King of California has enough heart to warrant the price of admission. Being an admitted Michael Douglas fan helps as well. For a first time writer/director, MUCH worse could've been done. The film is fun enough and has enough potential that you can count me in on whatever Cahill has up his sleeve for future projects.
 


Click "play" to see the trailer:


Links:
IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Official Site
Flixster Profile for King of California




 





andrew@moviepatron.com


Posted by Andrew James in
Review

(90) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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